The Princess and the Pea

The Princess and the PeaWhat’s the moral of the story of The Princess and the Pea? I’ve been putting people on the spot with this question this week, and received so many different replies. Before reading on, if you remember the story, give yourself a few moments and jot down the moral that you’ve always taken from this tale.

Need a memory jogger? In this Hans Christian Andersen tale, published in 1835, a prince searches the kingdom for a real princess to marry. He meets plenty of princesses, but each has a fault, so he returns to the castle alone. One night, during a storm, a girl knocks at the door. She’s wet and bedraggled, yet claims to be a princess. The Queen decides to test this by giving her a bed for the night, twenty mattresses high, topped with twenty feather beds. Beneath all those mattresses and feathers, the Queen places a pea.

The next morning, when asked how she had slept, the princess replied that she had had a terrible night and had hardly slept because the bed was so uncomfortable due to something hard that left her skin bruised. The Queen rejoiced, because only a real princess would feel the pea through all those mattresses. Of course, the prince and princess married and lived happily ever after.

So, what’s the moral of the story? If you haven’t written one down, do so now. And if you had written one down and you now have a new thought about the moral of this tale, write that down before reading on.

I bought Vashti-Sita Bardsley’s 'The Princess and the Pea' brooch.

I bought Vashti-Sita Bardsley’s ‘The Princess and the Pea’ brooch.

Last weekend, I went to Vashti-Sita Bardsley’s exhibition of jewellery created around the hero’s journey, and bought The Princess and the Pea – a brooch. Vashti is a dream client, and I was excited to see her work, knowing something about her journey, and now you know why I’ve been asking people all week for their view of the moral of the story of The Princess and the Pea.

As a child, and as a mother reading the story to my children, I thought the princess was very rude to mention her discomfort, yet at the same time I realised that if she had kept her discomfort to herself, she wouldn’t have married the prince and lived happily ever after.

What would Hans Christian Andersen tell us today, about the moral of his 1835 story, The Princess and the Pea?

What would Hans Christian Andersen tell us today, about the moral of his 1835 story, The Princess and the Pea?

Responses I collected this week included: that princesses are picky and rude, that it’s not good to be hypersensitive, that one’s true nature always shows through, that we shouldn’t judge a person by appearances. That’s just for starters.

I realised that my view had shifted since early motherhood, and for me the story is about authenticity, and the pea – given the bed and sleep theme – can be likened to dreams that help us to recognise uncomfortable or painful issues that we need to acknowledge and heal to live happily ever after. If we deny uncomfortable issues, turn our backs on our dreams, and pretend that all is well, we never get to experience – and here we slide into another Hans Christian Andersen tale – the joyful transformation from ugly duckling feeling to beautiful swan knowing.

It is said that Hans Christian Andersen, when asked to write his autobiography, replied that it was already written, as The Ugly Duckling. He struggled throughout his life with issues of authenticity and belonging. I wonder what he would tell us today, about the moral of The Princess and the Pea.

And what’s your personal take on the moral of the story?

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2 Responses to The Princess and the Pea

  1. Lorelei says:

    Hello, Thank you for your description of this fairy tale. I remember it from my own childhood. I am a Spiritual Psychologist and now completing another Master Program at the University called: Consciousness, Health and Healing. We are working on the 6th Chakra energies this month and so clues are appearing in our inner knowingness from all sides. Dream work is especially rich for me.
    I am in the beginning stages of what appears to be a very promising romance….and I am having a hard time believing that my prince has finally come. So, after setting my bedtime intentions, I asked Spirit what my next Steps are with this man KC, and I woke up in the middle of the night with only the title of the fairy tale…I reached over to my notepaper and wrote down Princess and the Pea….and went back to sleep. The way I may interpret this dream is if I just remain in my authenticity, being true to myself and others, and loving whatever is, it may be true that my prince has finally come.
    If you ever give feedback – I would love to know your thoughts on this.
    Light and Love,
    Lorelei

    • Jane Teresa Anderson says:

      Hi Lorelei,

      How wonderful that even though the dream evaporated, you captured a clue from which you’ve drawn a valuable insight. Your sixth chakra energies are with you! If The Princess and the Pea speaks of the importance of being authentic to you (as it does to me), then your dream has served you well. I believe that living in authenticity, as you have described it, opens you (opens us all) to allowing and receiving the very best, personally and spiritually, prince or no prince. But I do wish for you that your prince is part of the package :)

      Jane Teresa

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